Prince William vows that peace in the Middle East will be his "lifelong project"
Prince William has pledged to make peace in the Middle East his “lifelong project” after his historic trip to the region.
This week the Duke of Cambridge became the first royal ever to travel on official business to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
The 36-year-old father of three was so moved by the stories of those he met – especially the suffering endured by youngsters – he even personally rewrote half an official speech to reflect his own feelings.
Now the former military pilot has made it his mission to campaign for a “just and lasting peace”.
A highly-placed Palace source told the Sunday Mirror that the Duke is determined to solve the region’s long-simmering mutual hostility – a problem which has stumped a series of world leaders.
Before the visit, unsure of how he would be received, he asked aides to brief him closely on the labyrinthine politics that have doomed previous attempts at peace to failure.
And as the trip ended he told them: “This is the start of something new. I will forever honour my commitments to the people I have met.”
An insider revealed: “The politicians who affect this younger generation’s lives may only be in office for five, 10 or 20 years – but William knows his duty is for life.”
Tradition dictates that royals stay neutral rather than entering the political landscape at home or abroad.
But sources say William wants to play a significant role in bringing “peace and prosperity” to the Middle East and intends to use his global platform as a force for good in the region.
His dedication echoes his mother Princess Diana’s work with causes close to her heart over many years, continuing her legacy of helping “forgotten” people.
The Duke’s five-day tour of the Middle East was acclaimed by political and religious leaders on both sides as having real potential to be a game-changer.
He is seen as the perfect foil for Donald Trump, whose fiery rhetoric and ill-thought-out decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem caused huge political uproar, mass protests and violent deaths.
In the wake of rioting and hundreds of casualties, it was William’s own decision to give speeches to both sides in the conflict delivering the same message: “Never has hope and reconciliation been more needed”.
The Duke travelled to the strife-torn region without wife Kate, who is on maternity leave following the birth of Prince Louis in April.
He had historic meetings with Israeli president Reuven Rivlin, PM Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara in Jerusalem, where he donned a holy skullcap to pray at the Western Wall.
Mr Rivlin sent shockwaves round the world when he asked William to deliver a message of peace to his opposite number, President Mahmoud Abbas, when he crossed over the border into Palestine.
Far from shying away from the challenge of bringing the two sides together, William is understood to have told aides he intends to “do what is right”.
A royal source said: “The visit had a profound effect on the Duke.
“The places he visited, the people he met and the stories he heard have all moved him very deeply.
“He spoke at length to his advisors of how the young people affected by the region’s troubles need hope in order to be able to look forward to a brighter future.
"William is a young, intelligent man who is very in tune with the politics of the world.
“No one will forget when he told the Palestinian people they have ‘not been forgotten’.
“He has often thought about his mother’s legacy and hopes his efforts will now lead a new chapter for future generations to enjoy.”
Diana’s campaigns highlighted a range of causes including marginalised men dying of AIDS in East London, ostracised sufferers of leprosy in India and maimed victims of landmines in Angola.
During his visit, William is understood to have been so moved by meeting young people in the Ramallah refugee camps that he sat down and changed the bulk of a speech he had prepared that day.
He was also touched by a visit to the West Bank refugee camp of Jalazone, where he went to a school and a health centre as children were being vaccinated.
The camp, which holds 15,000, suffers from high unemployment and frequent clashes with a nearby Israeli settlement.
William told locals: “I hope that through my being here and understanding the challenges you face, the links of friendship and mutual respect between the Palestinian and British people will grow stronger.”
Palestinians want East Jerusalem, captured by Israel along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the 1967 war, as the capital of a state they seek to establish in the two territories. In 2005 Israeli troops and settlers pulled out of Gaza, now ruled by Hamas Islamists.
Until now it had been British policy not to make official royal visits to the tinderbox region.
But our source said: “William was happy the subject of politics was brought out into the open, as it allowed him to talk freely about the troubles of the Middle East and the quest for peace in the separate states.
“The way he was received on the global stage has been very encouraging for him looking forward.” Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, speaking earlier this week, hailed William as “a figurehead for a younger generation”.
And one Middle East expert said: “It’s evident Prince William has the will and desire to lead on this issue. The whole world will be behind him to succeed.”
During his trip William also paid a visit to neighbouring Jordan and toured the ancient site of Jerash, where his wife Kate was once pictured as a four-year-old.
Flying colours after test on world stage
By Mirror’s Russell Myers in Jerusalem
Not long ago this would have seemed impossible. A member of the royal family – let alone the future King – wading into the Middle East peace process.
For someone relatively inexperienced on the global political stage, would it be a test too far? But the naysayers were wrong – and William’s courageous actions will reverberate around the world for years to come.
This was history in the making and I was privileged to have a front row seat.
My time with the Duke of Cambridge on his tour of the Middle East, the first time a royal has gone to Israel or Occupied Palestine in an official capacity, is one that will live long in the memory.
William seemed to grow in stature with every day that passed, every meeting he successfully navigated and every story he was told.
Whether it was harrowing detail from Holocaust survivors, pleas from religious and political leaders or the toils of women and children in the refugee camps of Occupied Palestine, he came, he listened and he acted.
There can be no doubt whatsoever this trip had a profound effect on him.
William clearly has a sense of purpose in the world. With his campaigning on mental health, tackling of cyberbullying among children and supporting disadvantaged communities, he embodies many of the traits his mother Princess Diana was famed for.
Like her, he is keen to shine a light on injustices throughout the world and be a powerful voice for the marginalised.
This was arguably his first major test on the global stage and he passed with flying colours.
Quite how far he can go remains to be seen. But what there can be no doubt about is that William will give the job his all.
Prince’s visit shows Britain’s position
By Fawaz A Gerges, Professor of Middle East Politics at LSE
Prince William’s visit to the Holy Land is historically and symbolically important. It came at a critical point when tensions between Israelis and Palestinians are very high and the peace process is suspended.
For the Palestinians it was a breath of fresh air, reaffirming the UK Government’s position that Jerusalem’s Old City is in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
This contrasts with Trump’s decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem against worldwide opposition.
It offers clarity regarding Britain’s position towards the two-states solution. In his tour of Palestinian lands, Prince William let them know that the world has not forsaken them and that Britain recognises their legitimate aspirations.
He might not be able to bring about change in the near future but the British government could and should play a more active role in rescuing the two-states solution.
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